(USW) locals representing the hourly workforce at U.S. Steel Corporation
(USS) will hold strike authorization votes this week, despite what
USS is calling an “ongoing extension of the collective bargaining agreement”
which was set to expire at 11:59 p.m. Saturday.
USS announced that
the company and the union have agreed to an extension--the duration of which
was not specified--in a terse statement issued at 7:39 p.m. Saturday.
USS said that the
contract extension “is in the best interest of our employees, customers,
stockholders, and other stakeholders.”
“All U.S. Steel
facilities continue to operate in a safe and orderly manner,” USS said.
however, at 9:20 a.m., USW confirmed that strike authorization votes “at all
local unions begin today and continue through Friday.”
“Let’s show USS we
will stand up and fight back for fair contract!” the USW added.
USW Local 6103 said
that strike authorization votes will be held at 8 a.m., 4 p.m., and 7:30
p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6, at Woodland Park in Portage.
authorization votes are being scheduled and held, the USW said, “we will
continue to stay at work and will provide management with 48-hour notice in
advance of any strike in order to safely cease operations. We will also
continue to try to bring the company to its senses, but that authorization
is necessary to bring them into the real world. The local leadership will
then return to Pittsburgh to try to finalize a deal before we take any
strike action. Hopefully the company brings forward a proposal worth your
consideration for ratification. Their current one is not.”
before deadline on Friday, the USW announced that it had agreed to a “brief
extension” of its own three-year contract with ArcelorMittal. Again, the
duration of that extension was not specified.
At 10:49 a.m.
Saturday, with only 13 hours remaining before the current contract was due
to expire, the USW released a lengthy communiquŽ blasting USS for what it
called the company’s “financial sleight of hand.”
“The union and the
company are still far from a fair agreement,” the USW said. “U.S. Steel
continues to demand a six-year contract with deep concessions throughout. It
has offered bonus and wage increases the first three years, designed to
appear meaningful, but the bulk of their ‘bonus’ is the profit-sharing we
will have already earned. There is nothing but financial sleight of hand in
the way they now do business. Much like their Carnegie Way savings they brag
about so much. This is followed by very small increases in the final three
years and the promise of more bonus money if they do well using formulas
they continue to change to suit their needs.”
The USW also
slammed cuts which USS is seeking in the current active healthcare program,
which the union said would double the amount members would pay in
deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums. Under the same proposal, members
would pay up to $237 in monthly premiums for family coverage, which would
increase by 10 percent per year over the lifetime of the contract, the USW
said. “After subtracting these premiums and additional out-of-pocket
expenses, the proposed wage increase is actually an average of only 0.2
percent per year for a family. It’s even worse for retirees and those who
expect to retire in the coming years.”
In addition, the
USW said, USS is seeking a series of other concessions, including the
* Enabling language
which would allow the company to modify all incentive plans.
* Eliminating the
$250 minimum Supplemental Unemployment Benefits (SUB) benefit and cut the
duration of SUB benefits.
* Eliminating SUB
benefits and layoff protection for employees of up to five years of service.
weekly Sickness & Accident (S&A) benefits for employees with less than five
years of service.
* Reducing S&A
benefits by 50 percent for employees with five to 10 years of service.
* Changing health
insurance carriers without negotiations or union agreement.
* Reducing health
insurance continuation during layoff up to 50 percent for new hires.
* Benefit cuts and
premium increases in retiree healthcare benefits.
healthcare premiums for future retirees.
* Random drug tests
for all employees.
* Eliminating the
40-hour guarantee and schedule 32-hour weeks “as they see fit.”
* Eliminating quick
return overtime and OT over eight hours in a day.
“The list goes on
and on,” the USW said. “This is a staggering proposal from financial flim-flam
artists who have spent the last three years taking care of themselves and
fattening their pocketbooks at the expense of everyone: their workforce,
customers, and even shareholders. They have developed a line of BS about how
much they care and their ‘passion’ for USS. They care only for themselves
and their behavior is evidence of that.”
“The union didn’t
come looking for this fight and we wish the company’s executives would cut
out all their ego-driven nonsense and, like the workforce, just do their
jobs, making and delivering high-quality steels to the market and our
customer base,” the USW added. “We are prepared to continue to try to reach
an honest and fair settlement and will continue to strive toward that end
with management. Hopefully a strike will not be necessary but the company
continues to ignore the workforce’s needs and to commit illegal practices on
a daily basis during the bargaining.”